Blue Devil's living legend
Charles Prince, Hartselle Enquirer
He once scored six touchdowns in a game against a defense that had yet to be scored upon that season. He averaged over 200 yards a game in his senior season of high school football. He was named MVP of the Alabama High School All-Star game. He was the object of an intense recruiting battle between Georgia Tech, Navy, Auburn, Tennessee, LSU and Alabama.
His name is Noojin Walker. He was one of the most sought-after high school football players ever to come out of Morgan County.
Walker played only one season for the Falkville Blue Devils – 1952 – but it was a memorable one. As the quarterback in a single wing offense, Walker scored 141 points in nine games and gained 1,670 yards on the ground while throwing for 414 more, leading Falkville to a 5-4 record. The five wins were five more than the Blue Devils recorded in their 1951 season.
Walker racked up six touchdowns in Falkville's fourth game of the season against West Limestone. After three games, the Wildcats had yet to allow a point, let alone a touchdown. After news of the performance began to spread, college recruiters found their way to the little town in southern Morgan County.
Walker chose to stay in state and signed with Alabama.
"The tradition of the Crimson Tide made me want to go to Tuscaloosa," Walker said. "My father attended Auburn, so I don't think Alabama was were he hoped I would go."
Walker missed out on playing in his first two seasons at the Capstone due to a knee injury in the Alabama High School All-Star game in the summer of 1953.
Finally in 1955, Walker earned a starting spot for the Tide. In those days of iron-man one-platoon football, Walker played running back, blocking back and wide out on offense. On defense he played safety, cornerback and even nose tackle in goal line situations.
To his dismay, 1955 was a 0-10 season in Tuscaloosa. The bitterest defeat came in the season's final game at Legion Field in Birmingham against Auburn. The Tigers routed the Tide 26-0 that day on a sea of mud disguised as a football field.
"It had rained for about a week," Walker said. "And they had held a band competition there just the week before. All the high school bands in Alabama were invited there. That really messed up the surface.
"By the time game day came it was all mud. The grass was gone and they spray painted it green to look like grass."
For Walker, the game was especially disheartening because he missed out on a chance to score what seemed to be a sure touchdown.
"I caught a pass in the flats," Walker said. "A teammate of mine knocked down the last defender between me and the goal line. But, I slipped in the mud and tripped over my own teammate. If I had kept my footing, I would have scored."
Walker, who led the Tide in receiving in 1955 with 154 yards on 14 catches, transferred from Alabama to Austin Peay University after that season.
Alabama head coach James "Ears" Whitworth, who won only four games in four years at Alabama, was the reason behind Walker's decision to leave Tuscaloosa.
"He told me I was occupied too much with academics," Walker said. "I decided to transfer and go to a school that where I could play football and still concentrate on my degree."
After graduating from Austin Peay, Walker taught chemistry and biology at the Clarksville, Tenn. school for 12 years. He later moved to Florida and taught at Pensacola Junior College for another 25 years before retiring.
Walker still loves the game that financed his education.
"I follow Alabama on TV," Walker said. "I wish I was still playing today."
Despite his longing, he is disturbed by the conduct of some of the game's modern players.
"I don't like it when players draw attention to themselves," Walker said. "You see a guy sack the quarterback and then he runs off by himself and does some sort of dance. It's not the way football should be. It takes 11 players to win. Each man is important."
Walker's fondest memories are of his high school days when he was an iron-man player for the Blue Devils.
"We had only 17 players on that team," Walker said. "Everyone played both ways in those days. Today you see guys rotate out after four or five plays, but not back then. Everyone played the whole game. I don't understand how today's players seem to get tired out so easily."
Walker, whose mother and sister still live in Hartselle, often reminisces about his days in Morgan County.
"Not a day goes by that I don't think of my teammates at Falkville," Walker said.
"I learned something about life from each one of them and we were such good friends. It was a very special team to me."